Today's manufactured export figures are welcome. They show a rise in volumes of 0.8% in July - September last year over the second quarter performance. Over the year to the third quarter real exports nevertheless fell by -0.8%.
I was, therefore, a little surprised to read these comments from Finance Secretary John Swinney on the latest figures
" ... it is clear that many counties have developed a taste for Scottish goods ... Our excellent natural larder guarantees some of the best produce in the world and this reputation for quality is paying dividends."
The chart below shows just where Scottish manufactured exports are.
This statement from the Release is formally correct:
The index of manufactured exports fell more than 13 per cent during the recession in 2008/9. Since then the trend in the results shows a recovery in export volumes, although the quarterly growth rates have been relatively volatile. The latest results show that export volumes remain around 10 per cent below their pre-recession level.
But the statement does not tell the full story.
Manufactured export volumes were falling before the GDP recession began - from 2007Q2. They then fell by 16.5% and began to pick up a quarter before the end of the GDP recession. With the latest data, export volumes, now stand at 13% below the 2007 peak. Yes, there has been a recovery but it has been weak and appeared to have run out of steam from 2011Q2.
Moreover, it can be seen that the present situation is worse than the position in the early 2000s after the shock to Scotland's manufacturing exports of the collapse of the electronics industry. Although, in mitigation the downturn then was structural affecting mainly one sector, whereas today the malaise is more general.
We do need to be grateful to the export performance of the food and drinks industry and whisky in particular. The data show that without growth of 5.9% in food and drink during the quarter, manufacturing exports would have contracted by nearly 1%. The position is a little better over the year with engineering making a small positive contribution along with food and drink. But the weak performance of the other sectors resulted in negative growth over all.
Some recovery; some dividend!